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Times paywall debate hots up

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 20th May 2010

The Times has been busy promoting its new look website (see above) in advance of its launch, which will coincide with the construction of the paper’s paywall.

[Incidentally, on the look and feel of the new site, I can’t help but think they’ve basically taken a leaf out of the New York Times and Guardian websites – hardly original is it?]

On Tuesday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and his Times counterpart John Witherow, clashed on Radio 4 when discussing the paywall move.

Witherow admitted that the move would decimate The Times’ online readership by “easily” more than 90% but countered that it would be “perilous” to continue to focus solely on advertising as the sole means of online revenues. In a clear stab at the Guardian, he proclaimed:

“The danger of this other model is that gradually the journalism will diminish, it will get poorer and poorer, you won’t be able to afford things, you won’t be able to do things and so everybody is poorer as a result.”

In the other corner, Rusbridger countered these claims stating, “if you erect a paywall around your content you kind of go into a vault of darkness”.

As I’ve said before, the key to all of this is ‘value’. If The Times really can do as Witherow says and offer unique content that cannot be found elsewhere, then they might find a big audience willing to pay. I have my doubts as to whether they will achieve this however.

As for advertisers (and indeed PRs), who would you prefer to target, 100,000 or so subscribers to Times Online or the 32m people worldwide that use the Guardian every month?

Seems a no-brainer…

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